JEAN Stone started delving into the history of the River Cherwell out of casual interest.
But she soon found herself discovering a lot more than she bargained for.
Her new book, River Cherwell, is the fruit of her labours.
It is a 96-page journey along the waterway which carves a deep valley from the North of Banbury down to Oxford and is a major tributary of the Thames.
And each place tells its own story.
After having only written a trio of booklets about her home, the village of Steeple Aston, near Bicester, she decided to take on something bigger.
The 86-year-old said: “It was right on my doorstep and I like it very much, it is a brilliant little valley.
“While doing my research I was in a constant state of surprise because the more I delved and poked about the more interesting it became.
“I kept coming across all sorts of funny little tales.”
One example, she said, was the grisly murder of a Banbury man by his Italian nephew who had come to stay.
The nephew was later hanged for his crimes in Oxford.
Mrs Stone wrote the book in sections, covering Roman invaders, the Great Western Railway, the Domesday Book and even the M40.
She said: “I worked my way down the river and even though I have lived here for 30 years I still found plenty of new things to explore.
“There were so many things to write about and I had to cut a lot, but each chapter has its own theme and I’m very happy with the book.”
Mrs Stone said she was particularly grateful to the Victoria County History, an archive of all England’s places and people which she drew on to write parts of her book.
And, she spent a lot of time walking along the banks taking some of the pictures for the book.
Mother-of-two Mrs Stone, who lost her husband Geoffrey aged 71 in 1983, was a secretary before she got married, and then a housewife before turning author.
- River Cherwell, priced £14.99, is published by Amberley Books
- THE River Cherwell starts a few miles north of Banbury and continues as far as Oxford, sometimes meeting up with the Oxford Canal and parting company again as it reaches the city outskirts.
- It is joined by the River Swere from the West near Adderbury, and by the River Ray from the east at Islip.
- After flowing through college meadows it then becomes a major tributary of the River Thames.
- The depth of the Cherwell is measured every April as students prepare to leap from Magdalen Bridge on May Morning.